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HUMANISTIC EDUCATION                  161

It is important to keep these two tendencies in mind in following
out the development of education during and after the renaissance,
for in a sense the history of education from that time to this is
simply the record of their interaction and conflict. The difficulty,
it is true, scarcely presented itself to those who were eager for the
reform of education in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.
Theoretically, there were two possibilities before them. Either
the schools and universities might break away from the medieval
tradition and take up the study of the literature, philosophy and
science which had already come into being with the renaissance
impulse; or, following the course taken by most of the other
movements of the time, they might go back to the past and get
the materials of instruction from Greek and Roman literature.
Practically, only the latter alternative was open to them. The
meaning of the renaissance is comparatively clear to us. During
the last four centuries the spiritual forces it set in motion have
gradually created new literatures, new sciences, new methods of
government, new views of social life ; but in the early days of the
movement, when education was being discussed as it had not been
for well-nigh twelve hundred years before, these were all in the
future. The vernacular literatures were still in their infancy, and
there were few modern works in any language worthy to be put
alongside the great classics of Greece and Rome, Science was
even less developed. There were a few serious investigators, and
the scanty knowledge they possessed was as yet an esoteric posses-
sion. Men still sought for the philosopher's stone, and thought
of the earth as the centre of the universe. There was, indeed,
abundant promise of future achievements both in literature and
in science. But it is not possible to educate by means of subjects
which exist only in promise, and therefore, as a matter of course,
the educators of the renaissance turned to the works that had come
down to them from the ancient world. It was perhaps a mis-
fortune that this meant ignoring the mother tongue of the scholar
at the expense of Latin, but a misfortune mitigated by the fact
that Latin was still to all intents and purposes a living language,
spoken and written by scholars and men of affairs everywhere
throughout Europe. And apart from the utilitarian value of a
language in which the most important books in every subject were
written, there was the all-important consideration that it was in
the literature to which that language and the less known Greek